Country Inn and Suites defends state title

MARQUETTE – The Country Inn and Suites hockey team of Marquette defended its girls 19-under House/Recreational Michigan championship with a dominating performance at the state finals in East Lansing from March 22-24.

Playing at the Suburban Ice Arena, the Marquette team won all five of its games, outscoring its opposition 44-2, and became the first Marquette girls team to win back-to-back state championships and the first for any Marquette Junior Hockey team to do so since 1994-95.

The team’s suffocating defense killed off 26 of 27 penalties, including a trio of 5-on-3s and even a 6-on-3 disadvantage.

Kate Garrow was named tournament most valuable player for the second year in a row as this was the swan song for a majority of the team, since 10 of the 14 girls are scheduled to graduate from high school this spring.

Country Inn clinched the title with a 5-0 victory over Midland in the Sunday morning state championship game. Marquette jumped out quickly with a goal by Garrow 27 seconds into the game and Hannah Doucette just 14 seconds later.

The team’s next shot, by Katey Carey, also produced a goal with 2:15 left in the opening period before Garrow added two more in the third period for the final margin.

Carey, Lindsey Rabitaille, Riley O’Connor, Molly Matson, Jenna Parsons and Leah Enright all had assists as goaltender Devin Christian notched her third shutout of the weekend, stopping 24 Midland shots.

Country Inn opened the event with a 10-1 victory over Manistique on Friday, though the game was even until Garrow scored a shorthanded goal with 3:58 left in the first period. Later in the period, Christian preserved the lead by stopping a Manistique penalty shot.

Marquette then scored six goals in the next 17 minutes, with Garrow finishing with four, O’Connor three, Tayler Green two and Enright one. Green and Matson each had two assists, while Garrow and Lauren Marlowe were among those with a single assist. Christian made 20 saves for the win.

On Friday evening, Marquette thumped Traverse City 20-1 as TC was forced to go with an inexperienced backup goalie. Country Inn took advantage, scoring on eight of its nine shots in the first period and six of eight in the second.

O’Connor scored five goals; Green, Garrow and Matson three each; Jessica Wiegand two; and Parsons, Carey, Enright and Natalie Weyher one apiece. O’Connor, Weyher, Garrow and Sam Schwemin each had three-assist playmakers, while Matson, Doucette, Rabitaille and Enright all had two.

On Saturday morning, Country Inn won 4-0 over mBank of Marquette, a 16U team that filled in as a last-minute replacement in the tournament and gave the eventual champs their best game, according to Country Inn coaches. MBank advanced as far as the tourney semifinals, losing to Midland 2-1, against the older opposition.

Parsons and Rabitaille, both defensemen, scored Country’s first goals before Enright and Garrow rounded out the scoring. Garrow had two assists while Christian got a 16-save shutout in net.

In the semifinals on Saturday night, Country Inn blanked Mackinaw City 5-0 as the winners broke a scoreless tie with three goals in a 63-second stretch by three different lines in the latter stages of the opening period.

Garrow scored two goals and Green, Doucette and Enright added one apiece. Garrow was among those with a single assist as Christian made 13 saves.

Information compiled by Steve Brownlee, Journal Sports Writer.